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Biden Threatens to Veto Israel Security Assistance Act

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • House Passes Israel Security Assistance Act; Biden Threatens Veto
  • Israel Matches Erdogan’s Trade Freeze by Imposing 100% Tariff on Turkish Imports
  • Jolani Sends Armored Vehicles to Attack Protestors in Idlib
  • Turkiye Excludes Iran from Turkmen Gas Transit, Seals Deal with Azerbaijan
  • Pakistan Arrests Iranian Assassin Ring in Karachi
  • Saied’s Crackdown: Tunisia’s New Dictator Suppresses Freedoms

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. House Passes Israel Security Assistance Act; Biden Threatens Veto

The White House stated that President Biden would veto the Israel Security Assistance Act that passed the House, citing constitutional concerns over presidential authority. Republicans accused Biden of failing to uphold his “ironclad” support for Israel. The bill, passed with a 224-187 vote, threatens to cut off funding to the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Council if the administration does not release frozen arms shipments to Israel. 

  1. Israel Matches Erdogan’s Trade Freeze by Imposing 100% Tariff on Turkish Imports

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared Israel’s termination of its free trade pact with Turkiye, coupled with a 100% tariff imposition on Turkish imports, following President Erdogan’s export halt to Israel. The move aims to counter Erdogan’s alleged anti-Semitism and his perceived economic boycott of Israel. Smotrich said Israel will diversify imports away from Turkiye to enhance Israeli industrial resilience.

  1. IDF Discovers Rocket Launchers and Weapons Facility in North Gaza

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) operating in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza have discovered numerous long-range rocket launchers and a weapons storage facility near an evacuated civilian shelter. These findings come during fierce resistance from Hamas, marking the most intense clashes since October 7. Reinforced by the IDF’s 98th Division, the 7th Brigade led the operation in narrow alleys, resulting in the evacuation of civilians and the capture of 40 suspects. Concurrently, Gaza Civil Defense reported 93 bodies recovered due to Israeli bombing, with widespread fires hampering rescue efforts. Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades claimed to have killed and injured Israeli soldiers, targeting a troop carrier and tanks.  Fighters targeted a troop carrier with an Al-Yassin 105 shell and attacked soldiers with a BKC machine gun. The Israeli army has acknowledged the deaths of five soldiers and over 40 injuries in recent battles.

  1. Smotrich Denounces NYT Investigation as “Blood Libel”

Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has rebuked a New York Times investigation that accuses him of undermining law enforcement efforts in the West Bank. In response to a leaked document implicating him, Smotrich labeled the article a “blood libel” and criticized the newspaper for its alleged bias against Israel. The investigation sheds light on the growing influence of the extremist religious right in Israeli politics, particularly in the West Bank, where settler violence remains a contentious issue. Despite mounting scrutiny, Smotrich remains steadfast in his stance against a Palestinian state, vowing to prevent what he sees as an Arab takeover of the territories.

  1. Canada Sanctions Israeli Settlers After Rising West Bank Violence

Canada has implemented its inaugural sanctions against “extremist” Israeli settlers in the West Bank, aiming to curb settler violence against Palestinians. The sanctions target four individuals allegedly involved in violent acts against Palestinian civilians and their property. This move follows similar actions by allies like the United States and Britain. Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie emphasized the seriousness of settler violence and stressed the need for consequences for perpetrators. The escalating violence in the West Bank, exacerbated by the Israeli-Gaza conflict, has raised concerns among international powers. Canada, while classifying Hamas as a terrorist organization, has also pledged significant humanitarian aid to Gaza. 

  1. Spain Denies Port Access to Ship Carrying Arms to Israel

Spain refused a request for the Marianne Danica, a ship carrying 27 tons of explosives from India to Israel, to dock at the port of Cartagena on May 21. Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares confirmed the denial, stating it aligns with Spain’s policy to ban arms exports to Israel since the Gaza conflict began in October. This marks the first instance of Spain blocking a ship carrying weapons to Israel. Albares emphasized that Spain would continue to reject any similar future requests. This decision follows recent actions by Spanish officials urging companies to ensure their operations in Israel do not contribute to human rights violations in Palestine.

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★ IRAN

  1. Turkiye Excludes Iran from Turkmen Gas Transit, Seals Deal with Azerbaijan

Turkiye has signed an agreement with Azerbaijan to import and transit Turkmen natural gas, effectively excluding Iran from the transit routes to the Mediterranean and Europe. The deal, signed in Istanbul on May 15, involves expanding the capacity of several natural gas pipelines and facilitating Turkmen gas transit. Turkiye’s energy minister, Alparslan Bayraktar, announced that this agreement would enable additional gas volumes from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to reach Turkiye and Europe by 2030. This development comes after Turkiye and Turkmenistan’s March 2024 gas purchase agreement. The new Igdir-Nakhchivan pipeline will soon be operational, reducing Azerbaijan’s reliance on gas swaps with Iran. Iran, previously a key player in gas transit through its extensive pipeline network, has faced interruptions in its gas supplies to Turkiye due to domestic shortages and sanctions, leading Turkiye to halve its Iranian gas intake in 2023.

  1. Pakistan Arrests Iranian Assassin Ring in Karachi

The Counter-Terrorism Department of the Sindh Provincial Police has arrested two armed men linked to the Iranian-backed Zainabiyoun Brigade in Karachi, exposing Iran’s deep-rooted interference in Pakistan. Asif Ijaz Sheikh, a senior Sindh police officer, stated that the suspects, Waqar Abbas and Hussain Akbar, were trained in Iran and targeted religious scholars under orders from Iranian intelligence. The men are accused of killing 17 scholars and wounding 11 others between September last year and February this year. Karachi Police Chief Raja Omar Khattab revealed that the local Zainabiyoun Brigade, led by Syed Hussein Mousavi, operates as a civilian intelligence group. Authorities have identified 23 members of the group in Karachi and initiated operations to arrest them. The Zainabiyoun and Fatemiyoun Brigades, consisting of Pakistani and Afghan Shiites, respectively, have been used by Iran in regional conflicts, leading to U.S. sanctions on both groups since 2019.

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★ IRAQ

  1. Iran-Backed Iraqi Militants Claim Drone Strike on Eilat

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq announced a drone strike on a significant target in Eilat, Israel, today. According to their statement, the attack aimed to damage enemy strongholds as part of ongoing operations to resist occupation, support people in Gaza, and respond to attacks on Palestinian civilians. The group declared their intent to continue these actions in a message obtained by the “ENews” platform.

  1. Iraq’s Development Road Railway to Transport 13 Million Passengers Annually

The Iraqi Republic Railways Company plans to transport 13 million passengers yearly via the recently announced Development Road railway, a 1,200-kilometer rail link that will stretch from Al-Faw Grand Port in southern Iraq to the Turkish border. High-speed trains will run four hours daily for passengers, 12 hours for cargo, and six hours for maintenance. The project aims to extend railway networks across Iraq and includes plans for 11 industrial cities. The $17 billion project will enhance connectivity between Asia and Europe.

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★ YEMEN

  1. Houthis Claim Downing of American Drone in Marib

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree announced the group shot down an American MQ-9 drone over Marib Governorate on Thursday. The Houthis plan to release photos and videos to support their claim, stating the drone was targeted with a locally made surface-to-air missile. This incident marks the fourth aircraft downed by the Houthis since the Israeli conflict in Gaza began on October 7th.

  1. Yemen Currency Smuggling Crisis

Yemeni government sources have uncovered a scheme to smuggle large amounts of foreign currency out of the country, bypassing the Central Bank of Yemen. Every month, 300 million Saudi riyals are transported from Aden to Jeddah via Yemenia Airlines, causing the local currency to plummet. Government officials and leaders linked to the Arab coalition are aware of the withdrawals. In early May alone, 73 million Saudi riyals were transferred. An economic expert noted that transferring funds without Central Bank coordination is essentially smuggling, contributing to the Yemeni riyal’s sharp decline, now trading at over 1,700 riyals per dollar.

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★ SYRIA

  1. Jolani’s Tahrir al-Sham Attacks Idlib Demonstrators with Armored Vehicles

This morning, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) tightened security around Idlib, setting up checkpoints and restricting movement, allowing only families of HTS members to enter. Despite these unprecedented measures, unarmed civilian demonstrations erupted in Idlib and western Aleppo, demanding the ousting of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham leader Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the dissolution of the Public Security Service, and the release of detainees. HTS forces used tear gas and armored vehicles against the crowd. HTS fighters were recorded on video running over young men in their cars. In Jisr al-Shughur, videos showed HTS members firing live bullets into the air and beating protesters

  1. Lebanon Hands Over Boat with 20 Syrians to Assad Regime

Lebanese authorities have handed over a boat with 20 Syrians on board to the Assad regime amid a wave of anti-refugee sentiment. MTV reported that the boat left the Syrian coast for Cyprus four days ago but was intercepted by the Cypriot navy, forcing it to the Lebanese coast near the Arida border. The Lebanese Navy then transferred the boat to the Syrian Navy.

  1. Asma al-Assad’s Ally Poisoned in Mysterious Attack

Six months ago, Yasar Ibrahim, a prominent Syrian businessman closely linked to Bashar and Asma al-Assad, was poisoned with a chemical that severely damaged his internal organs. The incident occurred during a meal with close associates, one of whom poisoned him. Following the poisoning, which led to extensive medical treatments, including surgeries and periodic blood changes, three of Ibrahim’s close associates were arrested, while two others fled the country. The chemical, imported from outside Syria, caused blood contamination, and investigations have yet to identify those responsible. Speculation points to Russia, Iran, and even the Assads themselves, suggesting a deeper conspiracy. Ibrahim, under US sanctions since 2021, managed a vast network of companies across various sectors and rose to prominence in 2018. His influence grew further during the fallout between Bashar al-Assad and his cousin Rami Makhlouf. Since the poisoning, Ibrahim has been absent from his usual activities, and the truth about his condition has only recently come to light.

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LEBANON

  1. Hezbollah Attacks Israel with Drones Firing Iranian S-5 Missiles

On Thursday evening, Israel’s Iron Dome intercepted one of three missiles launched from Lebanon, with the other two landing in the Margaliot settlement without causing casualties or damage. Hezbollah later announced its first use of drones armed with S-5 missiles, targeting the Israeli site of Metulla and reportedly causing Israeli casualties. This marks a significant escalation in hostilities since October 8. Hezbollah’s leader, Sayyed Hashem Safieddine, warned of deploying new weapons and highlighted their increased capabilities.

  1. Israeli Airstrikes Hit Southern Lebanon

On Friday, Israeli airstrikes targeted southern Lebanon, hitting the villages of Najjariyeh and Addousiyeh near Sidon. The strikes resulted in the deaths of one Hezbollah fighter and two Syrian children. Concurrently, reports confirmed the killing of Ali Abu Yassin, an official of the Islamic Group in Bekaa, and two Palestinians in an Israeli raid on eastern Lebanon.

The Israeli army intercepted dozens of rockets launched from Lebanon by Hezbollah, who retaliated following the death of the senior commander. The Israeli air force destroyed a Hezbollah launch site in Yaroun, preventing further rocket attacks. Two Israelis were injured in the initial rocket barrage. Israeli airstrikes on southern Lebanon towns resulted in three additional deaths, including two Syrian children.

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★ EGYPT AND NORTH AFRICA

  1. Saied’s Crackdown: Tunisia’s New Dictator Suppresses Freedoms

Tunisian President Kais Saied is intensifying his oppressive rule by targeting lawyers, political commentators, and human rights activists. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned this wave of arrests, which undermines the rule of law and violates international standards. UNHCR spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani highlighted the detention of anti-racism activist Saadia Misbah and lawyer Sania Al-Dahmani, among others. Despite international outrage, Saied defends the arrests as legal and criticizes foreign interference. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have raised alarms about the erosion of freedom of expression and judicial independence under Saied’s regime. The ongoing repression starkly contrasts with the aspirations of Tunisia’s Arab Spring revolution, casting a shadow over the country’s democratic hopes.

  1. Tunisia Secures $175 Million Loan to Support Budget

Tunisia has secured a $175 million syndicated loan from 16 local banks to finance its 2024 budget, according to the Ministry of Finance. Finance Minister Siham Al-Boughdiri stated that the loan will help stabilize the foreign currency reserve. Additionally, the government raised approximately $500 million through a national IPO this month. Tunisia is grappling with financial difficulties, including a scarcity of external funding and high inflation, which is expected to reach 9.8% this year. The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation will lend Tunisia $1.2 billion over three years to finance energy imports.

  1. Tunisia to Amend Laws and Increase Penalties for Migrant Smuggling

Tunisia is intensifying its efforts to combat illegal immigration, with Parliament revising immigration laws. A proposal to amend the Foreigners’ Residence Law includes up to three years in prison for illegal entry and for those without a residence visa. Analyst Bassam Hamdi highlights the social and economic crises caused by an influx of African immigrants, stressing the need for new legislation and tougher penalties for human trafficking. Hamdi also calls for diplomatic efforts to reach regional solutions. The influx of migrants, partly due to a visa-free policy for sub-Saharan Africans, requires re-evaluation to control the situation.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Erdogan’s Support for Hamas Driven by Political Interests

Analysts suggest Turkish President Erdogan’s strong support for Hamas is political, not military, aimed at helping Erdogan counter domestic opposition, gain leverage with Western powers, and maintain Turkiye’s role in Gaza’s reconstruction. Despite its support for Hamas, Turkiye avoids breaking ties with the West or Israel, balancing its strategic interests carefully. This support is linked to Erdogan’s leadership and broader political strategies.

  1. Turkiye’s Heavy Sentences for Kurdish Leaders

A Turkish court sentenced 108 Kurdish leaders to a total of 375 years in prison for their involvement in the 2014 riots. Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP, received over 40 years. The unrest, sparked by the government’s perceived support for ISIS against Kobani, led to 37 deaths. Despite a European Court ruling deeming his detention unlawful, Demirtas remains imprisoned. Thursday’s verdicts drew widespread condemnation and dashed hopes for democratic reforms under President Erdogan. Defendants and their lawyers boycotted the hearing in protest.

  1. Turkish Offensive Raises Fears for Iraq’s Turkmen

In late March, an Iraqi Turkmen tribal leader, Sheikh Hussein Alloush, was killed in Kifri, a disputed region southeast of Kirkuk. The United Iraqi Turkmen Front Alliance (UITFA) claims he was targeted by a PKK drone strike. As Turkiye plans a summer offensive against the PKK in Iraq, concerns grow that Turkmen leaders could be targeted. The PKK’s increasing presence in areas with significant Turkmen populations, coupled with Baghdad’s recent designation of the PKK as “banned,” has heightened tensions. Analysts suggest that Turkiye’s campaign aims to protect its interests in Iraq, including the Development Road project.

  1. Russia and Turkiye to Expand Cooperation in the Halal Market

Maxim Protasov, President of Russia’s certification agency RusQuality, announced at the KazanForum 2024 that Russia aims to expand its cooperation with Turkish companies in the halal market. With the global halal market exceeding several trillion dollars, Russia sees significant opportunities. Protasov highlighted the growing young Muslim population and increasing demand for halal goods and services. He emphasized the mutual recognition of certificates between Russia and Turkiye, aligning with international halal standards. Protasov expressed confidence in reaching an agreement with Turkiye’s Halal Accreditation Agency to enhance trade and cooperation in this rapidly growing market.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 16, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 15, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 14, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 13, 2024

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